The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga took a step forward but then stumbled and lost that step in the same afternoon.
The wrestling Mocs bested No. 12 Stanford 22-15 but then fell to unranked-but-should-be Central Michigan 24-8. In the opener Sunday at Maclellan Gym, Central Michigan bested Stanford 22-13.
"We have to continue to step forward. I think we got better today and took a few more steps forward. We had a good day. With a couple more steps it could've been a great day," coach Heath Eslinger said.
The Mocs got a boost in their opener when senior Bucky Johnson returned to the lineup and opened the Stanford meet with a 5-1 victory over the Cardinal's Matt Sencebaugh. The Mocs followed with wins from Shawn Greevy (141), Kelly Felix (149), Dan Waddell (157) and Brandon Wright (165) before Niko Brown (197) put the match out of Stanford's reach with a pin in 1:55.
"I'm really proud of Bucky. I think his win set us up for the [team] win," Eslinger said.
However, that one win is likely one and done for Johnson, who wrestled with a torn ACL and then tweaked it during his match.
"I was going to go for bonus points but after [the knee] popped again I had to back off and just secure the win for the team," he said. "I'm going to sit down with coach tomorrow and try to make a decision but I can't finish practice without it slipping out."
Johnson reinjured the same knee he that cost him most of last season early in the Mocs practices but put off surgery with the idea of wrestling against Stanford.
"I think [Eslinger] is happy that I was able to wrestle and I'm happy -- as much as one can be in this situation. I'm hoping to apply for a hardship," he said.
Brown's pin gave the Mocs their only bonus points of the afternoon and he and Felix, who worked his way into the starting lineup this year as a senior, were the Mocs' only double winners. Brown rallied to best Central Michigan's Chad Friend 4-3 in his second match while Felix won 4-1 and 4-2.
"I think I was up to expectations today. Coach wanted two wins," Brown said. "It feels amazing [to be starting] and it has actually turned to where I'm enjoying it instead of struggling."
UTC might have made the Central Michigan meet more enjoyable for Eslinger and the 750-plus fans had they been able to win one-point matches. With the match's outcome very much in question, the Chippewas got one-point wins at 157 (No. 20 Donnie Corby, 3-2), 165 (Mike Ottinger, 3-2) and 174 (Anthony Brill, 6-5).
"In each of those matches, they scored in the first period. We are a little tentative early, and that's something we have to work on, but we win those matches and the end result might have been different," Eslinger said. "That's college wrestling in a nutshell. You have to win those. We have to have better first periods."
While he felt the Mocs got better in the loss to Central Michigan, the coach was pleased to beat 12th-ranked Stanford.
"It's a good win for the program and it was a step in the right direction, but it is not a measuring stick. Both meets showed us where we can improve," he said.
UTC 22, STANFORD 15
(Meet started at 125 pounds)
125 -- Bucky Johnson (UTC) dec. matt Sencebaugh, 5-1; 133 -- Ryan Mango (S) major dec. Nick Soto, 14-6; 141 -- Shawn Greevy (UTC) dec. Alex Manley, 8-4; 149 -- Kelly Felix (UTC) dec. Timmy Boone, 4-1; 157 -- Dan Waddell (UTC) major dec. Josh Lauderdale, 10-2; 165 -- Brandon Wright (UTC) dec. Matt Schneider, 4-1; 174 -- Nick Amuchastegui (S) tech. fall over Josh Condon, 7:00; 184 -- Spence Patrick (S) dec. Robert Prigmore, 6-2; 197 -- Niko Brown (UTC) pinned Alen Yen, 1:55; 285 -- Dan Scherer (S) dec. Kevin Malone, 2-1.
Records: UTC 2-1; Stanford 4-3.
CENTRAL MICHIGAN 24, UTC 8
(Meet started at 125 pounds)
125 -- Joe Roth (C) major dec. Cole Gallagher, 12-3; 133 -- Nick Soto (UTC) dec. Christian Cullinan, 5-0; 141 -- Scott Mattingly (C) dec. Shawn Greevy, 11-9; 149 -- Kelly Felix (UTC) dec. Timmy Boone, 4-1; 157 -- Donnie Corby (C) dec. Dan Waddell, 3-2; 165 -- Mike Ottinger (C) dec. Brandon Wright, 3-2; 174 -- Anthony Brill (C) dec. Levi Clemons, 6-5; 184 -- Ben Bennett (C) tech. fall over Robert Prigmore, 5:02; 197 -- Niko Brown (UTC) dec. Chad Friend, 4-3; 285 -- Peter Sturgeon (C) major dec. Kevin Malone, 10-2.
Records: UTC 2-2, Central Michigan 2-0.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...